Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Cooper Cougars are going to the playoffs for the fourth-consecutive year and headed for a showdown with cross-town rival Abilene High for the District 3-5A lead.

Clayton Nicholas threw four touchdowns passes, and Davon Riddick ran for a pair of touchdowns as the Coogs clinched a playoff berth with a 45-8 victory over the Odessa High Bronchos on Friday at Shotwell Stadium.

The victory pushes the Coogs to 8-0 on the season and 3-0 in their return to the Little Southwest Conference. Now, they’re alone atop the district with Abilene High, which knocked off Midland High, 28-18.

The Coogs and Eagles play for the outright lead and at least a share of the title Friday at Shotwell Stadium.

”It’s real familiar to us,” Cooper coach Mike Spradlin said. “We’ve been 3-0 the last two years at this point. It really helps you. You’ve accomplished a goal. You realize now you’re going to be playing Week 11, and it sets up a big contest next week.”

A week after throwing for a season-low 74 yards and no touchdowns, Nicholas completed 15-of-20 passes for 280 yards. He was picked off once.

“Our whole offense knew we were going to throw the ball,” the junior quarterback said. “They just had a wide-open defense. They had a lot of holes. We all just thought I could do it, and our O-line played well. We just slung it around.”


Spradlin knew Nicholas was ready to have a big game.

“I’m not surprised,” he said. “Clay prepared himself well this year. He was fired up and ready to go. He had a great night tonight.”

Odessa High (3-5, 0-3) managed only eight points despite getting 292 combined rushing yards from quarterback Johnny Campos and Ivan Subia, including 176 from Subia. Bradley Marquez, the district’s leading rusher, didn’t play in the game after getting a concussion in last week’s game.

Still, the Bronchos got their rushing yards, but couldn’t muster more than a touchdown — a one-yard run by Campos late in the second quarter.

“We gave up a few big plays tonight,” Spradlin said. “We keep getting things people are doing different, and tonight wasn’t any different. But the bottom line is we kept them out of the end zone, and that’s all that matters.”

Da’mor Barnes answered Campos’ touchdown with an 84-yard kickoff return, and Riddick ran for touchdowns of three and 22 yards on the Coogs’ first two possessions of the second half. The second was set up after Cooper blocked a punt to set up a three-play, 27-yard drive.

Nicholas closed out the scoring with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Khole Jackson early in the fourth quarter.

Nicholas had the hot hand early, completing his first nine passes for 212 yards, including three touchdown passes.

He started the scoring with a 51-yarder to Khaeer Sonnier with 6:15 left in the first quarter just six plays after the Bronchos fumbled the ball at the Coogs’ 13 on the game’s opening possession.

Nicholas hit Derek Footer for a 30-yard touchdown catch 16 seconds before the end of the opening quarter.

After missing the first PAT, Justin Lehr had his second attempt blocked. Austin Tavarez came up with the loose ball and pitched it to Kyle Alexander, who scampered 90 yards for two points.

Nicholas threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Alford Cooper early in the second quarter.

Odessa High closed within 10 on Campos’ one-yard touchdown run 3:29 before the half.

Barnes, though, returned the ensuing kickoff 84 yards for some added breathing room for the Coogs, who led 25-8 at the half.

“I’ve been waiting for that to happen,” Spradlin said. “Da’mor did a great job of taking that one to the house. It was just a good overall team victory for us, no doubt.”

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